“Once you see, it hard not to see it on every page.”
Those are the words my wife uses when she describes how it was when she came to understand the Calvinist view of Scripture, especially the doctrine of election. The same is also true when it comes to the postmillennial position of eschatology (the study of the end times.)
We’ve been listening to and reading a lot about The Revelation of Jesus Christ to the churches. Since my change in eschatological positions, as I’ve noted before, my level of understanding has exploded. I believe this is part of the confirmation of the position. Things that amillennialist have no real answer for, suddenly fit in the broader scope of Christ’s Kingdom and His rule and authority over both heaven and earth. In other words, His sovereignty, which we already agree is absolute in men’s salvation, is also absolute in history as well.
One of those changes that came about in my understanding of The Revelation is the dating of the book. For years, I like many others, had believed the book was penned by the Apostle John on the island of Patmos in 90 AD. This would put all that it says after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
The problem with this is that the dating of The Revelation comes from a spurious quote by Irenaeus which seems to indicate one of two things: first, as many claim, it means John wrote the book of Revelation in 90 AD instead of the earlier date, before 70 AD. Second, it simply means that John was still alive during Irenaeus’ lifetime. It’s not really clear.
“Had there been any need for his name (the Antichrist) to be openly announced at the present time, it would have been stated by the one who saw the actual revelation. For it was seen not a long time back, but almost in my own lifetime, at the end of Domitian’s reign.” (Against Heresies, 5.30.3)
Irenaeus is speaking about the number 666 and name of the Antichrist. While the text dealing with the number of the beast, (Revelation 13:17-18), do not mention the antichrist, Irenaeus, being premillennial in his position, clearly links the two.
He is saying that the identity of the Antichrist could have been revealed “by the one who saw the actual revelation. For it(he) was seen not a long time back, but almost in my own lifetime, at the end of Domitian’s reign.”
Just the context alone helps us see that the “it” in the quote could have been a “he,” which is grammatically possible. I believe Irenaeus is saying he saw John back during Domitian’s reign, and had it been important, John could have revealed who the Antichrist was at that point. He is not saying that the book itself was penned in 90 AD in Domitian’s reign.
You can read both the quote and the exposition of it here, by a young pastor, Joel Griffis. He shows not only the problem with the first view, but also goes on to show that Irenaeus refers to The Revelation as an ancient manuscript, meaning much older than a mere 25 to 30 years before when he saw John.
There are actually greater arguments against the late date of The Revelation, mainly Scripture itself, both Old Testament testimony and The Revelation itself.
In the Old Testament, the best place to support an early writing is found in Daniel 9:24
“Seventy [a]weeks are determined
For your people and for your holy city,
To finish the transgression,
[b]To make an end of sins,
To make reconciliation for iniquity,
To bring in everlasting righteousness,
To seal up vision and prophecy,
And to anoint [c]the Most Holy.
Now I know that this is a controversial section of Scripture and a difficult one as well. But if we let it speak, and not bring our pre-conceived notions and gap theories to it, it is much easier to understand. This verse is a loose outline of the rest of the prophecy given. But I’m not looking at verses 25-27, just this one.
The key phrase is “to seal up vision and prophecy.” This often overlooked verse is telling us that by the time the 70 weeks are completed, vision and prophecy will be closed. This prophecy is telling us that the canon was closed by the end of the 70th week. This is one of many verses that show us that there is no revelation today. The period of new revelation came to a close with the destruction of the temple. To say John penned the book afterward, based on one piece of external evidence, is most unwise, since our guiding principle of understanding Scripture is always to let Scripture interpret Scripture.
I understand that Dispensationalist never have a problem letting external evidence influence their beliefs and thinking. They do it all the time when the look to world events to determine the Second Coming and make their vain attempts to determine the time of the “rapture,” even though Jesus said that no one knows the time and date.
We are not to follow suit. We are to let the Scripture determine our understandings of life and the world, not the world to determine our understanding in Scripture.
When did John write the book of Revelation? The internal data indicates that it was before the destruction of Jerusalem. There is even evidence of this in the book itself, but I will deal with this later, at least I hope to.